Author Topic: SpaceX in the 2030s  (Read 29745 times)

Offline Slarty1080

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #40 on: 06/25/2021 06:59 pm »
I would think it is likely one or more of his children will be very active in SpaceX by the 2030's to carry on his legacy.
It's really quite unlikely that his ability to deliver on the Mars vision is something that can be inherited or instilled in his children. And children of successful people often (though not always) have a sense of entitlement that can be very counterproductive.

The best that should be expected is handing over a smoothly running operation to a safe pair of hands, with the goal of drawing out the descent into mediocrity over the longest possible time.


Not always. Take the J M Smucker company - it highly successful and has been run through four generations of the family now. The key to it working is getting the children involved early and working in different areas of the company. I would think with Elon's vision of making humanity multiplanetary which is going to take multiply generations, he would seek to have some of his children follow in his footsteps. They have been seen at Boca from time to time too.
Unfortunately I doubt any of Elon’s children will be able to step into his shoes at least not easily. They had a very different upbringing from him. Part of Elon was forged in some very nasty conditions. He had an unpleasant home life and had a terrible time at school being an intellectual swat amidst grim and tough minded Afrikaner peers in South Africa.

He was regularly beaten up and bullied for years. And not as in jibes, but as in being pushed down an entire flight of concrete stairs and being beaten around the head until bloody. His brother Kimbal said that on one occasion he looked like he had been in a boxing ring and he had to spend a week in hospital.

Also again according to Kimbal, train trips between Pretoria and Johannesburg during the 80’s were some of their formative experiences. “South Africa was not a happy go lucky place and that has an impact on you. We saw some really rough stuff. It was part of an atypical upbringing – just an insane set of experiences that changes how you very risk”.

Elon himself has said that he worried that his children had not faced enough adversity.
My optimistic hope is that it will become cool to really think about things... rather than just doing reactive bullsh*t based on no knowledge (Brian Cox)

Offline IainMcClatchie

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #41 on: 06/29/2021 04:44 am »
Mars has very little to offer besides gravity, which can be substituted by sufficiently large spinning things.  At some point, I expect Elon to have a big shift, wherein he abandons Mars and heads for near Earth asteroids.  It'll be like when Starship switched from carbon to stainless steel: everyone will cry for a while but then it'll make sense so they'll carry on.

I think this is where Bezos wants to go now, but he's somehow doing it wrong.

Property rights on Earth generally trace back to agreements made at the end of wars, and squatters' rights.  I think there is going to be a race on, sometime toward the end of Elon's life, where people vie to own near Earth asteroids by virtue of living there.

This seems quite ridiculous now.  At some point, it'll be possible to fabricate solar panels in space using stuff from asteroids.  Yes, that's a big jump from now.  The energy needed to fabricate a solar panel is made back by that solar panel in just a month or two, when the panel sits in full sunlight 24 hours/day.  Once the sorcerer's apprentice gets going in space you'll have absurd growth rates bounded by whatever the limiting resource shipped from Earth is.  And energy in space will be significantly more abundant (i.e. cheaper) than on Earth.

The price of most physical things on Earth is related to how much energy is used to produce it.  Yes, I know, software and services muddy this relationship.  Once energy in space is more abundant than on Earth, people in space, the people who own stuff up there, will be by some measures wealthier than people on Earth.  They will have better living standards.  They will live in bigger houses and have bigger back yards.  Those back yards may be inside large rotating pressure vessels and lit by LEDs, but that's not a huge loss.

Before that happens, lots of people will see it coming and there is going to be a big squabble over who owns the new wealth.

Offline Scintillant

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #42 on: 06/29/2021 05:14 am »
Mars has very little to offer besides gravity, which can be substituted by sufficiently large spinning things.  At some point, I expect Elon to have a big shift, wherein he abandons Mars and heads for near Earth asteroids.  It'll be like when Starship switched from carbon to stainless steel: everyone will cry for a while but then it'll make sense so they'll carry on.

Mars also has an atmosphere, functionally unlimited raw materials, a prebuilt surface, a more forgiving thermal environment, easier rad protection, potential for ISRU, and many other benefits. Settling Mars will almost certainly be far easier than settling an asteroid.

Quote
This seems quite ridiculous now.  At some point, it'll be possible to fabricate solar panels in space using stuff from asteroids.  Yes, that's a big jump from now.  The energy needed to fabricate a solar panel is made back by that solar panel in just a month or two, when the panel sits in full sunlight 24 hours/day.  Once the sorcerer's apprentice gets going in space you'll have absurd growth rates bounded by whatever the limiting resource shipped from Earth is.  And energy in space will be significantly more abundant (i.e. cheaper) than on Earth.

Unlikely. Even in a world where we have asteroid mining, it will almost certainly be far cheaper to build solar on Earth or Mars, and thus have cheaper energy. Space panels will be harder to manufacture and install than Earth panels due to the need for rad hardening, operation in a significantly harsher environment, little opportunity for repair, and other such issues. Plus, using the power is also harder - you either have to beam it somewhere and deal with beam losses and collection inefficiencies, or build a space station attached to the panels, which would definitely be more expensive than building on-planet.

Quote
The price of most physical things on Earth is related to how much energy is used to produce it.  Yes, I know, software and services muddy this relationship.  Once energy in space is more abundant than on Earth, people in space, the people who own stuff up there, will be by some measures wealthier than people on Earth.  They will have better living standards.  They will live in bigger houses and have bigger back yards.  Those back yards may be inside large rotating pressure vessels and lit by LEDs, but that's not a huge loss.

Also unlikely. First, price is dependent on supply AND demand - energy consumption has little to do with it. Something may take a lot of energy but with no demand, its price will be low. As for people living in space, that almost certainly will be more expensive than living on Earth, again due to the ease of building and operations on-planet. Compare the cost of the ISS ($150B for 35,000 cu.ft, 2/3 of which is taken up by equipment) to the cost of the fanciest mansion in the Hamptons ($145M for 42 acres and 20,000 sq.ft). That's 3 orders of magnitude less for infinitely more luxury - and if you're willing to settle for a "regular" $1M mansion in a decent city, that's 5 orders of magnitude less. Station living will not be cheaper than Earth living in the foreseeable future.

Offline spacenut

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #43 on: 06/29/2021 05:39 am »
Mars has water (ice).  NASA discovered a body of water in the northern hemisphere of Mars the size of Lake Superior.  Mars has a built in building material of basalt.  Mars has iron which makes the planet red.  Mars has sand for silicone and glass making.  Mars has a CO2 atmosphere good for plants to grow in greenhouses.  Mars has a 24.5 day similar to earth so acclimation shouldn't be a problem.  It also has gravity at .38% of earth, more than the moon.  Mars may also have other minerals and ores that can be mined and processed for a colony. 

Asteroid mining will be more expensive and with less payback than Mars.  Once a Martian colony is established and fuel manufacturing is running smoothly.  Starships could be refueled to travel to Ceres or the asteroid belt without the need for a nuclear mothership.  A refueling depot could be built at Ceres or another large asteroid, for travels onward to the moons of Jupiter. 

I still think by using a fleet of Starships a very large nuclear mothership with artificial gravity could be built using Starships to take the modules or components to space to assemble it.  Then it could take a couple of Starships to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn for exploration landings with possible future colonies there. 

Mars is only the first step. 

Offline RoadWithoutEnd

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #44 on: 06/29/2021 06:01 am »
What does SpaceX do next for the 2030s while Elon can still control the company?

I'm gonna play the "exponentiate" card here.  I was convinced that Falcon 9 was Elon Musk's platform; that he was going to build on and iterate it indefinitely, until he could no longer function.

Instead he did this other thing.  This bizarre program, utilizing ideas that were both very old and very young.

I say this is a clue into his character, and that he will do it again.  In fact, that he will do it continuously.

I say that the final product of SpaceX has no resemblance to anything we've ever seen from it.  That as much as Starship does not resemble Falcon 9, what follows it will not resemble Starship.

Moreover, that because Elon Musk is basically crazy, it takes no more effort on his part to make such leaps than it takes a normal person to choose chocolate ice cream rather than vanilla.

We are living in interesting times.   
Walk the road without end, and all tomorrows unfold like music.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #45 on: 06/29/2021 08:43 pm »
Some things to think about:

2002 -SpaceX established.

2012 - F9 fully operational with a private Earth return capsule. A 5X drop in cost $/kg from $20,000/kg to $4,000/kg (eventual to $2,000/kg by 2017).

2022 - Starship operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg from $2,000/kg to $400100/kg (eventual to $20050/kg by 2027).

2032 - Second generation Starship (Starship2) operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg from $200100/kg to $4010/kg (eventual to $205/kg by 2037). NOTES: SS2 would be a LV capable of 5X the payload capability of SS1 (possibly as much as 750 tons) for the same operational costs. Cost of a trip per person to the Moon or Mars from Earth <$400100K/person. A trip to LEO <$20,0005,000/person.

The basic note is that if such trends continue the Earth of the mid/late 2030's will be almost unrecognizable to us.

EDIT: OOPS!!  some of my numbers are off. FIXED. Math problems, math problems!!!!!


« Last Edit: 06/29/2021 11:36 pm by oldAtlas_Eguy »

Offline alugobi

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #46 on: 06/29/2021 11:08 pm »
Moore's Musk's Law.

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #47 on: 06/29/2021 11:30 pm »
Moore's Musk's Law.
If trends hold (maybe). SpaceX may be able to lower cost to space by a factor of 2X with in system improvements and then another 5X with an architecture change over the course of a 10 year period. Such that every 10 years the cost to space drops a total of a factor of 10.

MUSK'S LAW.  ;D

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #48 on: 06/30/2021 01:02 am »
I think the biggest risk to SpaceX is the leadership continuum. The vision and drive of Musk together with the maturity and competence of Shotwell have proven to be an outstanding combination. Musk will get old, and something could happen to Shotwell. These are big business risks, perhaps the biggest ones. SpaceX could milk the F9/FH for a decade or two, but to continue expanding, they need both of their leaders. I certainly hope they are working to identify and groom potential replacements for these two.

This is also a good point.

If Elon had lost control of SpaceX in the early 2010s and SpaceX under new ownership had coasted on the Falcon 9 v1.0 with minor upgrades (slight stretching); they'd be facing serious problems in the 2020s as established launch providers improved their own offerings and did cost reduction measures.

For example, F9v1.0 is a good LEO delivery vehicle, but it comes way short in the GTO market segment (1,400~ kg against 4,300~ kg for Atlas V 401 and 4,500 kg for Proton-M; much less 6,350 kg for Proton-M Phase IV).

The huge bet that Elon did on propulsive boost-back first stage recovery, and the massive performance increases that Falcon 9 required to make it work paid off in spades:

1.) Falcon 9 FT's performance in reusable ASDS landing mode has basically killed Proton from the commercial market and given ULA a serious run for their money in launching government payloads.

2.) Because of reusability, SpaceX can rack up the profit margin on reusable Falcon 9 launches, and then offer a cheap expendable mission to cut into the pricey and prestigious GTO / Beyond LEO market for Vulcan VC2. (Yes, I know VC2 has about 1 metric tonne more payload to GTO than F9 FT expendable, but because SpaceX can seriously compete in that weight class segment, they force the market to respond, rather than ceding it entirely).

3.) Because of the impressive launch rate brought by boost-back reuse; SpaceX can brute force their way to valuable planetary mission/nuclear certification from NASA through simply launching over and over, as opposed to launching infrequently and producing 100 metric tonnes of analyses for certification.

All this gives SpaceX a nice steady cash flow for the first half of the 2020s; despite the emergence of Blue Origin's New Glenn and ULA's Vulcan, as well as foreign "Falcon 9" clones in China and Russia that are on the drawing boards.

It also hasn't hurt that SpaceX's likely competitors have:

1.) Imploded. The entire Russian Space Sector is a chaotic mass. How long have we been waiting for Angara?

2.) Played it conservatively. ULA's Vulcan from looking at the specs is a nice "Falcon 9 v1.1 killer", bringing costs down to be competitive, despite the costs of the "Dial a Rocket" strategy with add on solids. Unfortunately for ULA, SpaceX's intense drive for self-improvement has turned Vulcan from a serious threat on the marketplace to one that can be managed.

3.) Gradatim Ferociter. Bezos and Blue have wasted an enormous opportunity. There was potential here for a kill shot -- so to speak on both ULA and SpaceX -- with the performance of New Glenn; but by taking so long to bring New Glenn to market, Starship has become viable; lessening the impact of New Glenn.

Offline IainMcClatchie

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #49 on: 07/01/2021 07:36 am »
Scintillant, thanks for the reply.  Mine is a radical idea, so although I'm unlikely to convince you of anything, I'll answer some of your criticisms on the chance you'd enjoy fleshing them out a bit.

Mars has very little to offer besides gravity, which can be substituted by sufficiently large spinning things.

Mars also has an atmosphere, functionally unlimited raw materials, a prebuilt surface, a more forgiving thermal environment, easier rad protection, potential for ISRU, and many other benefits. Settling Mars will almost certainly be far easier than settling an asteroid.

Mars' atmosphere is useful for aerobraking, which saves thousands of m/s of delta-V per incoming transit.  That's a big deal, as Earth-Mars transits cost less delta-V than Earth-NEO transits.  But aerobraking puts severe structural constraints on anything.  A shuttle going back and forth between LEO and an asteroid using solar electric propulsion and oxygen propellant has minimal structural constraints.

That's a big deal because the single biggest problem with a Mars colony is that there is no obvious product you can make on Mars and ship to Earth for profit.  Tourism isn't going to be big enough.

The atmosphere doesn't shield radiation sufficiently, so you have to build shielding, which isolates you from the surface.  It is a handy supply of CO2, and C is hard to come by on basalt rubble asteroids, so that's good.

Asteroids are also functionally unlimited in size.  A 1 km diameter basalt asteroid would yield sufficient metal to put 1 terawatt of SPS into GEO... that's 1 TW on the ground after beam losses.

Mars' surface is essentially useless.  To grow or inhabit anything requires a radiation shielded pressure vessel, just as you'd need in space.

Mars' gravity is probably worse than useless.  If 37% of Earth normal turns out to be okay, then it's temporarily useful, but dooms people who spend more than a few years on Mars to stay there forever, which means you can't ethically have kids on Mars.  If 37% turns out to be too small, it makes building livable km-diameter centrifuges far more difficult than building centrifuges in space.

Mars' thermal environment is worse than space.  In space, we have continuous solar radiation on one side and a 4 K radiative heat sink on the other.  No shading problems for a habitat built around and from the material of an asteroid.  No structural problems extending radiators hundreds of km into space.  On Mars there is night, which means thermal cycling.  The atmosphere is not dense enough to use as a heat sink and brings dust to screw up solar panels.  Radiators do not work as well in the Martian daytime as they do facing away from the Sun in space (shaded by solar panels).

Quote
Quote
This seems quite ridiculous now.  At some point, it'll be possible to fabricate solar panels in space using stuff from asteroids.  Yes, that's a big jump from now.  The energy needed to fabricate a solar panel is made back by that solar panel in just a month or two, when the panel sits in full sunlight 24 hours/day.  Once the sorcerer's apprentice gets going in space you'll have absurd growth rates bounded by whatever the limiting resource shipped from Earth is.  And energy in space will be significantly more abundant (i.e. cheaper) than on Earth.

Unlikely. Even in a world where we have asteroid mining, it will almost certainly be far cheaper to build solar on Earth or Mars, and thus have cheaper energy. Space panels will be harder to manufacture and install than Earth panels due to the need for rad hardening, operation in a significantly harsher environment, little opportunity for repair, and other such issues. Plus, using the power is also harder - you either have to beam it somewhere and deal with beam losses and collection inefficiencies, or build a space station attached to the panels, which would definitely be more expensive than building on-planet.

To my mind the big comparison is Space solar +beaming + utilities vs 3x as much Earth solar + batteries.  The biggest problem I see with space-based solar is actually the utility component on the ground.  Most of the cost of electricity isn't generation, transmission, or distribution, but rather utility overhead.  I suspect that in places with clear enough skies (Hawaii, Florida to Texas to California), a substantial fraction of consumers are going to cut off the utility entirely, maybe within ten years from now.

But for most of Europe and Asia and the northern half of the US, on-orbit concentrating solar power fabbed mostly at asteroids with cells from Earth will be cheaper than solar panels on Earth.  The energy returned from energy invested is just so good in space.

And, I think Elon will eventually come to that conclusion also.  And within a week he'll have turned SpaceX towards that new goal.

Offline 2megs

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #50 on: 07/01/2021 10:45 am »
2002 -SpaceX established.

2012 - F9 fully operational with a private Earth return capsule. A 5X drop in cost $/kg...

2022 - Starship operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg...

2032 - Second generation Starship (Starship2) operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg...

I have trouble seeing that trend continue for a "Starship 2". If Starship fully succeeds (I'm an optimist) then they've got an upper stage capable of indefinite load-and-go reuse. At that point the marginal cost of launches converges on fuel cost plus operating overhead. Beyond that point, a cheaper rocket doesn't make things meaningfully cheaper. The rocket amortizes to near zero, and further big wins mostly come from areas besides the rocket itself, like...

* Radical rethinking of how much infrastructure and workforce is required for a launch or landing site.

* A new way of building and operating offshore platforms for far less money than the oil and gas industry does today.

* Breakthroughs in power/fuel production, so consumables can be produced cheaper than we currently get methane out of the ground or oxygen out of the air.

The only other alternative to improve $/kg is moving beyond chemical rockets entirely (build a space elevator or a giant railgun or some other sci-fi thing), but that's not a "Starship 2" -- or a serious topic for the next decade.

I'm sure there'll be a Starship 2, but if Starship hits all its goals, the gains are more likely to be incremental than exponential.

Offline Bynaus

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #51 on: 07/01/2021 01:49 pm »
Also in the light of today's comments by Elon Musk, Starship might indeed just be "peak chemical rocket". Sure, it will be further refined, it will get competition (*ahem*a copy*ahem*) from China and perhaps elsewhere, but I don't think it will be followed by an even larger system.

The goal of starship is to have rapid and cheap reusability. Any larger rocket needs a larger launchpad, a larger security zone, more heat-resistant engines, etc, and would cost billions to develop. It would have to compete with an already established, rapidly reusable Starship / Super Heavy system that can just launch a couple of times more to achieve the same mass to orbit as the envisioned larger rocket. The point of (current) Starship is to have a ship that is large enough to start a base on Mars with a single flight. If it can do that (and I think it can), there's no point in building a larger system - just send more of them to further expand the base.

Therefore, I don't think SpaceX in the 2030s will be building an even larger Starship system. There will be Starlink, commercial satellite launches (and satellite servicing missions), military launches (perhaps point-to-point cargo - at this point, I don't believe in regular point-to-point passenger flights, except perhaps for "joyrides"), NASA launches, and an ecosystem of technology to support bases on the Moon and Mars, funded by both NASA and all the sources of income mentioned above. But the whole point of SpaceX is to have an independent civilization on Mars. That will take decades to accomplish, but its also SpaceX's "final" big project that will have the center of attention once Starship works (i.e., after ca. 2025). I think its realistic to expect Elon Musk to move to Mars at some point in the late 2030s, when there is a working base that needs his "hands on tinkering" to succeed. He's always where the action is, and at that time, it will be on Mars. And of course, he will eventually die on Mars.

I think its possible that SpaceX will at some point think about building some large, nuclear-powered interplanetary transport ship, which is serviced and refueled on both ends by Starships, to further increase the "useful tons to Mars" metric (i.e., such a transport ship could increase useful payload to Mars for the same amount of fuel launched by an existing Starship / Super Heavy fleet, because an NTR makes more efficient use of fuel compared to a Raptor-powered starship).
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Online Vahe231991

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #52 on: 07/01/2021 03:26 pm »
All nuclear fuel for the upper stage of this Starship variant (which would only ignite in space) would be mined from the Morrison Formation in the western United States.

Why does the source of the uranium matter?
The Morrison Formation is best known for dinosaur fossils, but also yielded uranium ore. I noticed that there are uranium deposits in the Gulf Coast region of Texas (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_US_uranium_reserves.gif), so if Elon Musk cared about the environment, he could ask local officials in the Texas Gulf Coast region to grant permission for uranium to be mined from this region so that uranium ore from the Gulf Coast region of Texas could be used to make nuclear fuel for a nuclear-powered Starship variant. I mean, the Starship rocket is so heavy and big that it could carry to weight of a spacecraft with a nuclear reactor. 

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #53 on: 07/01/2021 07:45 pm »
The only other alternative to improve $/kg is moving beyond chemical rockets entirely (build a space elevator or a giant railgun or some other sci-fi thing), but that's not a "Starship 2" -- or a serious topic for the next decade.

I would bet you $100 that right now, Space X has a private "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Division set up to evaluate all sorts of crazy stuff for "breakthrough technologies", ranging from "can we commercialise VASMIR" to "EM Drive".

I would also bet you $25 that SpaceX has actually flown some of these potential technologies in orbit, either on Starlink satellites themselves, or on Starlink-only Falcon 9 Upper Stages (the advantages of having your own internal payloads is that you can do risks with them that no paying customer would dare allow).

Offline philw1776

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #54 on: 07/01/2021 08:18 pm »
The only other alternative to improve $/kg is moving beyond chemical rockets entirely (build a space elevator or a giant railgun or some other sci-fi thing), but that's not a "Starship 2" -- or a serious topic for the next decade.

I would bet you $100 that right now, Space X has a private "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Division set up to evaluate all sorts of crazy stuff for "breakthrough technologies", ranging from "can we commercialise VASMIR" to "EM Drive".

I would also bet you $25 that SpaceX has actually flown some of these potential technologies in orbit, either on Starlink satellites themselves, or on Starlink-only Falcon 9 Upper Stages (the advantages of having your own internal payloads is that you can do risks with them that no paying customer would dare allow).

Were it verifiable, I'd take that $25 bet literally as stated (VASIMR or EM drive flown is your win) and even give you 2x payout.
FULL SEND!!!!

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #55 on: 07/01/2021 08:27 pm »
Some things to think about:

2022 - Starship operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg from $2,000/kg to $400100/kg (eventual to $20050/kg by 2027).

2032 - Second generation Starship (Starship2) operational. A 5X drop in cost $/kg from $200100/kg to $4010/kg (eventual to $205/kg by 2037). NOTES: SS2 would be a LV capable of 5X the payload capability of SS1 (possibly as much as 750 tons) for the same operational costs. Cost of a trip per person to the Moon or Mars from Earth <$400100K/person. A trip to LEO <$20,0005,000/person.

Let's look at this from a historic standpoint:

Fuselage Diameters and Volumetric Area per 1 meter length:

DC-3/C-47 Skytrain: 2m diameter, 3.14 m3 per meter of length
DC-4/C-54 Skymaster: 3m diameter, 7.06 m3 per meter of length
DC-8 Narrowbody Jet: 3.73m diameter, 10.92m3 per meter of length
737 Narrowbody Jet: 3.8m diameter, 11.34m3 per meter of length
777 Semi-Widebody Jet: 5.86m diameter, 26.97m3 per meter of length
DC-10 Widebody Jet: 6.02m diameter, 28.46m3 per meter of length
Boeing 747 Widebody: 6.08m diameter, 29.03m3 per meter of length
A380 Super Widebody: 7.14m diameter, 40.04m3 per meter of length

Extrapolation to Starship

Vulcan Centaur: 5.4m diameter, 22.9 m3 per meter of length
New Glenn: 7m diameter, 38.48 m3 per meter of length
Starship: 9m diameter, 63.62 m3 per meter of length
Saturn V: 10.1m diameter, 80.12 m3 per meter of length

Right from the start, Starship offers more potential cargo space per length than the A380; and the only thing that beats it in rockets is the now-defunct Saturn V.

If we assume that Starship is basically the DC-3 that takes us to space, then scaling up the difference between the DC-3 and DC-8 (1.865 times the fuselage diameter); gives us a "Super Starship" diameter of 16.7~ meters.

This is bigger than Nova C-8's first stage diameter -- only Sea Dragon at 23m diameter would be bigger.

Going to

https://launchercalculator.com

Selecting Starship and then modifying the specifications to be:

16.7m diameter
32,902,516 kg lift-off mass (scaled up from 9m starship LOM to 16.7m)
Setting 1st Stage Dry/Wet to 10%
Setting 2nd Stage Dry/Wet to 7%
Setting 1st Stage Unused Propellant to 20%
Setting 2nd Stage Unused Propellant to 5%

I get:
652,538 kg to LEO
526,356 kg to ISS

If we assume launch costs remain constant at around $65 million for the first run of Super Starship; then this is $99/kg to LEO.

If launch costs drop to $25M per launch for later Super Starships, this results in $38/kg to LEO.

But the biggest problem with jumping into a scaled up next generation Super Starship is this:

The full Starship stack is about 5,000+ long tons.

Against this, the present "State of art" in big launchers is:

Space Shuttle: 2,000~ long tons
Energia: 2,300+ long tons.
N-1: 2,700+ long tons.
Saturn V: 2,900+ long tons.

Starship is only about a 1.7x scale up in launch mass from the Saturn V.

By contrast, Super Starship at 32,300+ long tons is a 6.46x scale up from Starship.

(NOTE: I'm using long tons deliberately, since it lets you make direct comparisons to floating ships, the only other things this heavy that move)

Given that SpaceX has to develop a lot of other stuff to make Mars colonization happen, there's not going to be enough engineering manpower going around to develop Super Starship.

Offline RyanC

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #56 on: 07/01/2021 08:34 pm »
I think its possible that SpaceX will at some point think about building some large, nuclear-powered interplanetary transport ship, which is serviced and refueled on both ends by Starships, to further increase the "useful tons to Mars" metric (i.e., such a transport ship could increase useful payload to Mars for the same amount of fuel launched by an existing Starship / Super Heavy fleet, because an NTR makes more efficient use of fuel compared to a Raptor-powered starship).

I think you are also right; and that we will see further specialization in Mars Orbit-only Starships for that end of the "transport route"; because Mars Orbit-only starships could have much cheaper/lighter/efficient heat shields due to Mars' thinner atmosphere.

Offline Bynaus

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #57 on: 07/02/2021 05:44 am »
I think its possible that SpaceX will at some point think about building some large, nuclear-powered interplanetary transport ship, which is serviced and refueled on both ends by Starships, to further increase the "useful tons to Mars" metric (i.e., such a transport ship could increase useful payload to Mars for the same amount of fuel launched by an existing Starship / Super Heavy fleet, because an NTR makes more efficient use of fuel compared to a Raptor-powered starship).

I think you are also right; and that we will see further specialization in Mars Orbit-only Starships for that end of the "transport route"; because Mars Orbit-only starships could have much cheaper/lighter/efficient heat shields due to Mars' thinner atmosphere.

And significantly lower entry speeds... They could even have smaller tanks (i.e., higher payload fraction) and would still be SSTOs on Mars. Although this would have to be balanced against the need to partly decelerate the payload propulsively, because of the thin atmosphere - not sure which effect would "win" here.
More of my thoughts: www.final-frontier.ch (in German)

Offline Scintillant

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #58 on: 07/02/2021 07:17 am »
Mars' atmosphere is useful for aerobraking, which saves thousands of m/s of delta-V per incoming transit.  That's a big deal, as Earth-Mars transits cost less delta-V than Earth-NEO transits.  But aerobraking puts severe structural constraints on anything.  A shuttle going back and forth between LEO and an asteroid using solar electric propulsion and oxygen propellant has minimal structural constraints.

Structural constraints pale compared to the huge delta-V benefits of aerobraking. Plus, we're going to have an aerobraking-capable vehicle in the 2030s (Starship) - we're nowhere near having an SEP shuttle.

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The atmosphere doesn't shield radiation sufficiently, so you have to build shielding, which isolates you from the surface.  It is a handy supply of CO2, and C is hard to come by on basalt rubble asteroids, so that's good.

Without getting into the whole Mars radiation kerfuffle, building shielding on Mars is as easy as piling dirt over your habitat, which is significantly easier than trying to do the same in micro-g on an asteroid with no atmosphere.

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Mars' gravity is probably worse than useless.  If 37% of Earth normal turns out to be okay, then it's temporarily useful, but dooms people who spend more than a few years on Mars to stay there forever, which means you can't ethically have kids on Mars.  If 37% turns out to be too small, it makes building livable km-diameter centrifuges far more difficult than building centrifuges in space.

This doesn't make sense. First, if Mars gravity is ok, why does it doom people to anything? That's contradictory. Also, people manage year-long stints in microgravity and recover fine, so it's likely that Mars gravity will be tolerable for at least that long, and probably longer.

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Mars' thermal environment is worse than space.

Not true. On Mars, you can get about 30% of your heat management through convection in the atmosphere, whereas in space you're stuck with 100% radiative, and an asteroid is a significantly smaller heatsink than the entirety of Mars.

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But for most of Europe and Asia and the northern half of the US, on-orbit concentrating solar power fabbed mostly at asteroids with cells from Earth will be cheaper than solar panels on Earth.  The energy returned from energy invested is just so good in space.

Energy returned per energy invested is not the relevant metric - cost/kW is. At today's utility-scale prices ($1/W), given $100 million I could either get 100MW of on-planet solar panels, or one set of iROSA panels for 120kW in space. That's 3 orders of magnitude difference, and on-planet panels will only get cheaper. Sure, you could argue about capacity factors and exact transmission losses and whatnot, but consider this: an on-planet installation requires exactly $0 of R&D, whereas your space-based solar plan requires the development of asteroid mining, space manufacturing of panels, a transport system for the panels, power transmission/receiving hardware, etc, AND all that has to be 3+ orders of magnitude cheaper than current space solar hardware. Nobody looking to invest money in solar would pick space-based over on-planet.

Casey Handmer has a good piece on why space-based solar isn't viable, and I'd recommend you read it (some of the numbers are mildly out of date, but the argument is still solid).

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And, I think Elon will eventually come to that conclusion also.  And within a week he'll have turned SpaceX towards that new goal.

Besides the issue of space-based solar being impractical, IMO this is a fundamental misunderstanding of Elon and SpaceX. Elon's goal is not "do stuff in space, whatever looks most appealing". Elon's goal is to colonize Mars. Everything that SpaceX does is in service of that goal - and asteroid mining / dubiously useful space-based solar does not help Mars colonization.

Offline rakaydos

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Re: SpaceX in the 2030s
« Reply #59 on: 07/02/2021 03:21 pm »
In light of the recent tweet about optimum launcher sizes (after figuring in logistics), I'd say that the next advancement isnt a "starship 2", but a cycler capable of taking standard point to point starships (with a thousand passangers packed in like sardines) and cover the life support, gravity and legroom requirements for a 4 month trip to mars.

It then replenishes it's reserves and does science for the 4 year off season in interplantary space, waiting for the next tourist season.

 

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